The dirty, not-so-little secret of high-tech manufacturing

A well-written, well-researched New York Times article on why Apple and other high-tech manufacturers choose to build their products in China:

How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States.

This quote about Foxconn is especially chilling:

“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said Jennifer Rigoni, who was Apple’s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, but declined to discuss specifics of her work. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”

Once, high-tech products were not just designed in the U.S. but made here too. Those jobs are gone, and they’re not coming back:

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

John Gruber concludes, apparently without irony:

Chinese manufacturing isn’t merely cheaper, but also perhaps even more importantly, nimbler, more flexible, and faster.

I guess that’s one way to describe it. It sounds more like America’s company towns on a much grander scale.

And yes, it’s not just Apple. But as the largest manufacturing company in the world (at least as measured by market capitalization) and one of the most profitable, Apple gets the spotlight here.

3 thoughts on “The dirty, not-so-little secret of high-tech manufacturing

  1. I have to say that it all comes back to the money. Faster, more nimble because the workers already live in squalor and the government controls everything. These people have no quality of life, no nothing so that they will take anything they get and put up with it for a long time.

    Do we want America to be like China? Not I for one and for Apple to say it is not up to them to solve America’s problems then they don’t get America and really aren’t American.

  2. America definately seems full of “non-Americans”. No, not aliens, illegal or otherwise. But people who no longer have the American Spirit. Anothony Bourdain, a TV celeb and long time restaurant owner said recently that he feels that the Mexicans and Chinese in American are the only one’s left with the “American Spirit”. In that those who believe in working hard and working well for our freedoms and ways of life. Really sad to see how we’ve turned out.

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